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Government implored to ‘urgently rethink’ Energy Bill Discount Scheme decision

The Government has been implored to ‘urgently rethink’ its ‘incredibly disappointing and concerning’ decision not to include swimming pools on the list of energy intensive industries.

Catherine West, the Labour MP for Hornsey & Wood Green and chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Swimming, has written to Stuart Andrew, the Minister for Sport, Tourism and Civil Society.

In her open letter, Ms West urged the Government to reconsider its decision which will prevent pools and leisure centres from receiving more support under the new Energy Bill Discount Scheme.

It will replace the Energy Bill Relief Scheme from April 2023 and will run for 12 months.

However, the scheme is less generous than previous support provided and Swim England chief executive Jane Nickerson branded the decision not to classify swimming pools as energy intensive as a ‘hammer blow’.

Now Ms West has warned Mr Andrew there will be ‘more service reductions and pool closures’ as a result of the decision.

She wrote: “Thank you again for your time at the meeting of the APPG for Swimming in December.

“You will recall that during the meeting, a number of swimming pool operators highlighted with alarming clarity the scale of the cost pressures they were facing, as a result of soaring energy prices and of the need for additional support beyond the end of the Energy Bill Relief Scheme.

More pool closures

“They confirmed to you that without this support, more pools would close or leisure centres would be forced to reduce staff and/or opening times.

“Despite finding common understanding during our APPG meeting in December, it is incredibly disappointing and concerning to see swimming pools not included in the list of ‘Energy and Trade Intensive Industries’ (ETII) that will be eligible for additional government support under the new Energy Bill Discount Scheme.

“I would urge the Government to urgently rethink this decision and to add swimming pools to the ETII list to provide the short-term support they need to survive.

“We have already seen pools closing across the country as a result of soaring energy prices and without a change in approach from the Government, we will see many more service reductions and pool closures.”

Ms West highlights the ‘crucial’ role pools play in all aspects of society in her letter.

She wrote: “As you may be aware, I am very passionate about swimming.

“In particular, about ensuring every child has the opportunity to learn how to swim and be safe in and around the water.

“After lockdown, more children than ever registered for Learn to Swim sessions with families, recognising the importance of learning a vital life skill as well as finding friendship, relaxation, and supporting physical and mental wellbeing.

Targeted support

“Swimming remains one of the most popular activities in England.

“That’s why 50,000 people signed the #SaveOurPools petition by Swim England that I was proud to present to the Government before Christmas.

“I am sure you agree that these are facilities that, as well as supporting grassroots sporting opportunities for hundreds of thousands each year, are crucial to the health and wellbeing of the country, reducing pressures and costs for the NHS.

“If we are serious as a nation about encouraging people to be active, we need to safeguard the future of the very facilities so many rely on.

“We must ensure that swimming pools remain accessible and affordable for everyone.

“This means providing targeted support to pool operators and providing greater reassurance and communication.

“I was struck during the recent debate on sport in schools and communities by the number of MPs from both sides of the chamber highlighting how important swimming pools are in their communities and imploring the Government to rethink the decision not to provide additional support.

“I write to add my support for that position.”